Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter


FALL 2008

Electronic Theses and Dissertations at Boston College:
Graduate Scholarship in the 21st Century

After a year of careful planning, the BC Libraries are now introducing an online system for submitting theses and dissertations. This new system, eTD@BC (electronic Theses & Dissertations at Boston College), will complement our traditional system of preserving paper copies of dissertations and theses in the University Archives. The incremental benefits of electronic submission will be:

  1. faster dissemination of BC graduate scholarship
  2. easier access and discovery
  3. digital, as well as traditional preservation
  4. retention of the full quality of the “born-digital” original
  5. inclusion of any multimedia components (video, audio, maps,...) in the original


Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) are being implemented at colleges and universities, both nationally and internationally. Collaborative efforts are underway to aggregate this scholarship using digital networking technologies to make these theses and dissertations widely available. For example, the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) is establishing a union catalog, whereby a single centralized portal will enable searching across institutions. Boston College is also collaborating with the MetaArchive Cooperative to create a network of repositories for distributed digital preservation, which saves copies of ETDs in multiple repositories, separated geographically. Access is still managed by the originating institution, but digital preservation becomes a collaborative activity.


Part of the graduate students' submission process involves an optional step of granting Boston College permission to publish their dissertations and theses on BC’s institutional repository, eScholarship@BC, so that anyone with internet access will be able to find and download their scholarly work for free. Clearly, with ETDs being disseminated far more widely, they will be cited more and have greater impact, thereby enhancing the student’s research career as well as the research process itself. In addition, this widest diffusion possible of scholarship furthers a primary university mission, namely to share information as broadly as possible.


This Open Access publication service is offered at no charge to BC students, and students retain their copyright. For those few theses and dissertations for which open access must be delayed, e.g. during a patent application or during submission to a journal publisher, students can request an embargo period. However, students are encouraged to check with prospective publishers before requesting embargoes; in many cases, they may discover that a prospective publisher does not consider a dissertation or thesis in an institutional repository to be an impediment to publication in their journal.


The remaining part of the online submission by the student involves submitting the thesis/dissertation to the publisher ProQuest. ProQuest’s submission system is conveniently organized into a step-by-step process; checkboxes keep track of progress. Ample online help is provided in order to explain key issues, decisions, and actions such as:

  1. Creating a PDF file that represents one’s dissertation/thesis
  2. Embedding fonts, so that in years to come the dissertation/thesis will display or print accurately
  3. Formatting the title and abstract of the dissertation/thesis so that special characters/formatting are employed
  4. Including supplementary files of various formats, e.g. for video, audio, maps, spreadsheets, etc.
  5. Asking ProQuest to register the student’s copyright
  6. Obtaining permissions to incorporate any third-party copyrighted material into a dissertation/thesis


As with any new system, the transition needs to be carefully planned and executed --- and there needs to be effective communication among the key shareholders. Accordingly, the Library is very keen to solicit feedback and suggestions from students, faculty, and administrators. The eTD@BC website and the workshops will be upgraded based on this feedback. Help will always be just an e-mail or a phone call away.


Bill DonovanBill Donovan
Digital Imaging Librarian





For further information about eTD@BC, contact Bill Donovan at

For further information about Open Access, contact Brendan Rapple at

For further information about discovery and access, contact Betsy McKelvey at


Questions, comments? Contact the BC Libraries Newsletter Review Board.
Subscribe to the Boston College Libraries Newsletter